As first reported by Wrestling Observer News, ‘The Original Bro’ Matt Riddle will be making his main roster debut as part of SmackDown Live sometime over the next few weeks. The former UFC fighter and NXT Tag Team Champion is currently wrapping up his mini-feud with Timothy Thatcher, which will come to a head on this week’s episode of NXT TV in a Steel Cage fight refereed by none other than Kurt Angle. After that, Riddle will be free to start making waves in the mainstream as part of FOX’s blue brand.
This is a huge move for Riddle, considering he’s become one of the marquee attractions of NXT and has yet to accomplish much in the way of titles outside of his run with Pete Dunne. It feels like there’s a lot of potential left for NXT to exploit, especially as the ratings war with AEW Dynamite continues to rage on. Nevertheless, the main roster’s jerk reaction to poor reception is a classic NXT call-up. In the past, Vince has called on the likes of Ricochet, Aleister Black and DIY to help boost a few ratings here and there, which has work to some extent but this move will be a lot more long-term.
With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking of the numerous dream matches that will now be available to Matt Riddle. Who will the grappler tangle with on Friday nights? We run down 5 potential opponents for Riddle to sink his teeth into and bring a whole new style of wrestling to SmackDown Live.
Make sure you leave your own fantasy matches down in the comments section.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura
One opponent that immediately springs to mind is ‘The King of Strong Style’ Shinsuke Nakamura. A man that has in the past favoured a style that leans more towards MMA than it does pro wrestling, Nakamura could bring out that gnarly side of Matt Riddle that has led to some of his most critically-acclaimed performances. Nakamura has been in dire need of an opponent that can take him back to his Strong Style roots and I personally believe that Riddle could be that guy.
Shinsuke hasn’t exactly been hitting his stride as of late, once again losing to AJ Styles in the latest episode of SmackDown Live and losing out on an opportunity to compete for the Intercontinental Championship. Aside from his meandering partnership with Cesaro, there’s not much for Nakamura to do in the meantime. With Nakamura being a former NXT headliner himself, perhaps there’s enough of a connection to be made there to establish a bit of jealousy between he and the newcomer.
I’d love to see these two meet somewhere down the line, if not just to get a small taste of what WWE would be like if they allowed more legitimate fighters to go the distance with one another and not be concerned about how well it’ll go down with kids and parents.
One particular superstar that doesn’t mind exchanging some heavy blows is the tough Irishman, Sheamus. I think we can assume that the rivalry with Jeff Hardy is going to continue past the Intercontinental title tournament, but once he’s finished with ‘The Charismatic Enigma’ then there’s nothing stopping him from setting his sights on Matt Riddle.
Riddle has shown prominence when working with bigger guys in the past. His matches with the likes of Keith Lee and Jeff Cobb were some of his most cited works from his days in PWG and since then has worked exceptionally well with the bigger guys of the NXT roster. I don’t see a potential match with Sheamus being any different to his hard-hitting affairs with the aforementioned stars and would probably bring out a whole new side of Sheamus that could easily reboot his career as a top heel.
3. John Morrison
As far as I’m aware, Matt Riddle and John Morrison never had the chance to meet during their time on the indies. Both men worked within the same promotions and competed at a few shows together but were never matched up against each other. I personally think that Riddle’s mat-based style would mesh really well with John’s high-flying skill-set and could easily steal a show on SmackDown Live or pay-per-view.
Morrison has so much potential to become one of the biggest singles stars in the company but now that he’s tied down to the tag team scene on SmackDown Live, it’s hard to see him being given many opportunities to show that in the near future, despite now entering the Universal title scene alongside his buddy, The Miz.
A match with Matt Riddle could do wonders for his career, reminding everyone how capable he is as a singles attraction and reinvigorate that buzz surrounding him. Not only that but it would give a massive rub to the newcomer on his way through the door.
4. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan seems to be edging towards a shot at the IC title in the finals of the current tournament. Should ‘The Yes Man’ pick up his second run with the belt, then he could do massive favours for the prestige of the workhorse championship by putting together incredible wrestling matches with fellow former indie darlings. Considering the wealth of talent available to WWE right now, a title run based on the indie style of wrestling would go a long way in winning fans back from AEW and other rival brands. Who could benefit from a match of this calibre? Matt Riddle.
Riddle and Bryan might seem like a bit of a strange combination of performers, but I see a lot of potential in them two mixing up various chains and innovations on catch wrestling. Bryan is at heart a technician that would probably have too much fun wrestling in an octagon but with him being a WWE guy, Matt Riddle might be the closest he’ll ever get to a match that stays on the mat.
As a huge fan of submission wrestling and chain grappling, this is an absolute must on my fantasy wrestling list. Pretty please WWE?
5. AJ Styles
There’s nobody in the wrestling business that picked up the skill as quickly as Matt Riddle did. In his first few years, Riddle was performing across the world and putting on instant classics with some of the most renowned indie stars, including Zack Sabre Jr, WALTER and Katsuyori Shibata. There’s one man that he never had the chance to clash with and that man was AJ Styles.
Now that both men share the same brand in WWE, there’s nothing stopping the two men from finally proving who is the more naturally gifted athlete. Styles will forever be considered one of the greatest of our time but Riddle could certainly hold a candle to his best matches and see if he can maybe take Styles to the limit. Matt Riddle hasn’t had many incredible matches in his NXT run but could definitely take his game to the next level in a match with AJ.
This match needs to happen, it’s a box office attraction for wrestling fans from all corners of the industry. Make it happen.
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